Wednesday, September 21st, 2005
Pining For The Fjords
There’s something to be said for first impressions. Oslo was the first city in which we were able to dock right off of the downtown proper, so our first view out the ship’s windows this morning weren’t the massive shipbuilding cranes and shipping containers that characterized the ports in the other cities, but a look at the marina and downtown Oslo proper.
We hadn’t booked any tour for today and were planning to cover the relatively compact city by foot and public transportation, but some of the tour buses parked right outside the ship offered us some pretty good deals so it was bus tour time after all. First stop was about 2 minutes down the street, at the Akershus fortress. The compound included the Akershus Castle, which dates back to 13th century, as well as a museum to the resistance movement in WWII. It was also where the Nazis set up their headquarters during their occupation of Norway. After a brief walking tour of the complex, it was back on the bus and then a tour through downtown Oslo. A pristine and pretty city, if there was any upside to the Nazi occupation, it was that the city wasn’t decimated by bombing.
Stop two was a little ways outside of the downtown at Frogner Park, home to the Vigeland scupltures. The 75 acres contains the life’s work of Norway’s foremost sculptor, Gustav Vigeland, who made a deal with the city that they would give him land and he will fill it with his work – and what a job he did. Dedicated to the cycle of life, there’s hundreds of marvelous statues featuring nude figures of men, women and children in all activities and stages of life. The park is immaculately maintained and the sculptures fascinating to look at both individually and as a whole – I hadn’t been expecting too much from this stop of the tour, but it was easily my favourite sight in Oslo and easily one of the best of the trip.
The final stop was down on the Bygdoy peninsula where we had a pick of museums – either the Viking Ship Museum or the Kon Tiki and Fram ships. Being a fan of looting and pillaging, I went with the Vikings. The museum housed three Viking funeral ships dating back from the 9th century in various states of preservation. One was amazingly preserved, one barely recognizable as a ship. They also had artifacts recovered from the ships on display, though no information on why these crafts were buried instead of being set on fire and sent out to sea the way proper Vikings should be. Ah well. After the museum stops, it was back to the pier.
I still had just under an hour before the ship departed so I hoofed it back downtown (took under ten minutes) to get some pictures and get a better look at buildings like the City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually, the Parliment buildings, the famous Grand Hotel and down Karl Johans Gate, the Royal Palace. All very nice and picturesque, and I made it back to the ship with ten minutes to spare. Of course, I can think of worse fates than to be straneded in the country with the highest standard of living in the world. It was really beautiful and everyone looked so healthy and happy, it was sort of unnatural. It’s not overflowing with things to sightsee from a tourist POV, but it does seem like it’d be a good place to just live. Besides the fact that things are freaking expensive.
And now, we’re at sea for the last time, en route to Copenhagen. We disembark early tomorrow and spend the day in the Danish capital before flying home Friday. I am all packed up and more than ready to go…